The Ohio State men’s golf team didn’t get off to the start it envisioned earlier this month in the NCAA West Regional Tournament. The Buckeyes sat in a tie for 11th place on the 13-team field after the first round of the three-round tournament.

But, on day two, OSU ascended the leader board, jumping eight spots to third place and eventually earning a fourth-place finish, good enough to advance to the NCAA Championships.

The team’s confidence has been high ever since.

“My game feels like it’s peaking right now,” said senior Michael Cress, who finished fourth in individual scoring at the regional tournament. “Me and all of the guys, we’re all riding on a big wave of confidence.”

Second-year coach Donnie Darr agreed.

“They just have to play with confidence,” he said. “The light’s clicked on that, ‘Wow, we’re pretty good if we just believe in ourselves,’ so I expect big things.”

The tournament will take place at the par-72, 7,407-yard Karsten Creek Golf Course, which is home to Oklahoma State’s golf team.

Before coming to Columbus, Darr was an assistant coach for the Cowboys golf team at the school also known as OSU from 2006–09.

“We should have a significant advantage over a lot of the teams,” Darr said. “A few of the teams have played the course before, but just my experience of being there for three years should really help us.”

Senior Brad Smith agreed.

“With his knowledge, I think it’s definitely going to help us once we get down there,” he said.

The first three rounds of the tournament will begin today and run through Thursday. The top eight teams on the 30-team field will advance to match play, which begins June 3. The final two teams remaining will face each other June 5, with the winner being crowned the 2011 national champion.

Cress said his team has what it takes to still be playing Friday.

“I think we have a great chance to shock some people, do some damage in the match play,” he said. “Once you get to the match play, anything can happen.”

Senior Bo Hoag said he was excited to have a shot at a national championship.

“Just to have to a chance to win a national championship,” he said, “just to have that opportunity is unbelievable.”

Joining Cress, Hoag and Smith as the starters in the tournament are juniors Dan Charen and Alex Redfield.

“It’s great to see that these guys bought in to what I believe,” Darr said. “They worked hard; they did the right things and now they’re getting a reward for it.”

Smith said the team may be getting the reward at a time when he and his teammates are playing at their full potential.

“It’s really exciting,” Smith said. “We’ve had a good year and I think we’re kind of playing well at the right time. I’m really excited to see what we can do this week.”

Tee times begin at 8 a.m.